WALTON John William

John W. WALTON 1886 – 1963

Family Details

John William Walton was born 15 April 1886 [1] at Esperley Lane Ends, Cockfield, the son of Matthew and Hannah Walton.  There were at least 5 children: [2]

  • Thomas bc.1874
  • Mary Elizabeth bc.1879
  • Jacob bc.1882
  • Susannah bc.1884
  • John William born 1886

In 1891, the family lived at Burnt Houses near Cockfield where Matthew worked as a coal miner.[3]  Matthew’s wife Hannah died in 1889 aged 36.[4] In 1901, widower Matthew lived at Wood Houses, Cockfield with Thomas, Jacob, Susannah and John William.  All the men worked as coal miners in various capacities, hewer, banksman or putter.[5]  Matthew died in 1905 aged 52.[6]

In 1906, John William Walton married Isabella Taylor.[7] By 1911, John and Bella lived at the Pottery, Evenwood Gate with their 2 children, Sarah Hannah aged 3 and Elsie aged 1.  John then 24 years old, worked as a coal miner [hewer].[8]  The family may have still lived at the Pottery in early 1915 since Rev. G.J. Collis, the vicar of St. Paul’s church mentioned J.W. Walton from Evenwood Gate in a roll of honour which was published in the Evenwood Parish Magazine. [9]  By April 1915, the family were at the Oaks, Evenwood.  William Gray [10] of Evenwood Gate, Secretary of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund compiled a comprehensive list of those who had enlisted and “John Wm. Walton, Oaks, 13th Batt. D.L.I.” was included as one of the married men who’d joined up.[11]

In 1918, the family lived at the Cross Row, The Oaks, Evenwood [12] and there were 5 children: [13]

  • Sarah Hannah bc.1907
  • Elsie bc.1909
  • Mona bc.1911
  • John Robert born 1913 [named after John Robert Taylor, Isabella’s brother killed in a mining accident at Randolph Colliery, 8 February 1896] [14]
  • George Cameron born 1915

Another 3 children were born after the war:[15]

  • Mathew bc.1922
  • Alma bc.1925
  • Alan bc.1931

John William Walton was a coal miner working at Randolph Colliery for all his life, other than his 4 years in the Army.

Military Details

Private J.W. Walton was posted to the 13th [Service] Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry [13/DLI] which entered France in August 1915.  He was wounded 9 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.  On returning to active duty, and after a spell with 10/DLI, he was transferred to the 5th Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers.  He was awarded the Military Medal in December 1917, was wounded for a third time in April 1918 before being discharged in November 1918.  More detail is provided below:

13th [Service] Bn., The Durham Light Infantry, 68th Brigade, 23rd Division [16]

5 September 1914: John William Walton enlisted [17] and joined the 13th [Service] Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, being given the service number 24749.[18] 13/DLI was formed in Newcastle as part of K3 and came under the orders of the 68th Brigade, 23rd Division.  The following is a brief summary of the 23rd Division whilst Private J.W. Walton served with it.[19] 

The 68th Brigade comprised:

  • 10th [Service] Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 11th [Service] Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 12th [Service] Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry
  • 13th [Service] Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry
  • 68th Machine Gun Company joined 4 March 1916
  • 68th Trench Mortar Battery formed 13 June 1916

In September, the recruits were sent to Frensham, Hampshire then in November moved to Aldershot, February 1915 to Willesbrough, Kent and in May, to Bramshott Camp, Hampshire.

21 – 28 August 1915:  Most of the 23rd Division landed in Boulogne and proceeded to concentrate near Tilgues.

24 August 1915:  Private J.W. Walton entered France.[20]

5 September: The Division was attached to III Corps and moved to Merris-Vieux Berquin area where trench familiarisation began under the tutelage of the 20th and 27th Divisions.

14 September: The Division took the responsibility for a front line sector between Ferme Grande Flamengrie to Armentieres – Wez Macquart road.   

Between 26 January and 8 February 1916, the Division was relieved in the front line by the 34th Division.  The units concentrated around Bruay.

March 1916:  The Division relieved the French 17th Division and was posted to the Carency Sector where the front line was between the Boyau de l’Ersatz and the Souchez River, including the posts on the Notre Dame de Lorette Hill.  Many former miners were withdrawn from the ranks to establish a Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers [TC RE] and many parties were attached to 176th TC RE for work in the Neulette area.  It is assumed that Private J.W. Walton would be involved with this work in a capacity of assistance rather than actual mining.

20 May saw the battalion return to the line in the Souchez Sector where:

“Ceaseless war was raged in these trenches with rifle grenades and trench mortars, the artillery of both sides joining in as occasion seemed to demand.” [21]

24 May 1916: An Evenwood man, 24781 Private John Henry Raine, 13/DLI was killed in action.  John was 28 years old and married to Sally [nee Dunn] previously from St. Helen’s.  They lived at Osborne Terrace with their 2 children, 5 years old Rachel Annie and 2 years old Rhoda.  He too worked at Randolph Colliery and there can be no doubt that John Henry and John William were known to each other, perhaps they were good friends.  Private J.H. Raine is buried at grave reference I.B.7., Bois-de-Noulette British Cemetery, Aix-Noulette, Pas-de-Calais, France.[22]  

21 May – 11 June:  The German attack at Vimy Ridge fell most heavily on the 47th [London] Division to the 23rd Division’s right in the area of Berthonval.  When relieved by the 47th, the Division moved to Bomy for intensive training.

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916: A Summary [23]

The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south. 

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  This action was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.   

The first day, 1 July, was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack.  At 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British Infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of a No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun fire and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches. 

The British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed: 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the “Battle of the Somme” has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours, the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure.  The following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.     

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions, the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep.  In terms of casualties, the cost was enormous – British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

1 – 13 July: The Battle of Albert

The 23rd Division was ordered into the line Sunday, 9 July to the south west of Contalmaison.  Patrols from 12/DLI [68 Brigade] entered Bailiff Wood but came under artillery fire and were forced to withdraw.  However, by nightfall, two 12/DLI companies captured Bailiff Wood and trenches either side.[24] 13/DLI was ordered to bomb along a specific trench but found itself under intense artillery and machine gun fire.  C Company 12/DLI came up to assist 13/DLI consolidate the trench.  At 1am 10 July, they moved back to Becourt Wood.  Casualties during the day to 13/DLI amounted to 1 officer and 67 men wounded of whom 7 remained on duty, and a further 6 men shell-shocked and 4 killed in action.[25]  Private J.W. Walton was with B Company, 13/DLI [26] and the account researched includes no specific detail on its part played in this action.  Private J.W. Walton was one of the 67 men wounded, 9 July 1916.[27] Later research records that between 7 and 12 July 1916, 13/DLI lost 19 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds, including 6 men KIA on the 9th and 8 men on the 10th.  21601 Private Harry Pulford from Cockton Hill, Bishop Auckland was killed in action, 10 July.[28]  At some time with 13/DLI, J.W. Walton was promoted to Acting Sergeant.[29]

August 1916: Acting Sergeant J.W Walton appears to have returned to England for treatment.  Rev. Collis reported that:[30]

“J. Walton who is wounded, was also with us at the same service.”

Rev. Collis offered an interesting observation:

“Certainly, military training and diet is good and useful from a physical point of view and I have no doubt it is beneficial from a mental and moral aspect also.”

In the early days of the war, many recruits were rejected since they did not come up to the physical standard expected for military service – a reflection of various factors including poor diet, previous illness and/or poor home and work environment.

5th Bn., The Northumberland Fusiliers, 149th Brigade, 50th [Northumbrian] Division

Upon his recovery, Acting Sergeant J.W. Walton appears to have been posted to 10/DLI then the 5th Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers, being given the service number 5/6778.[31] This must have taken place before the service numbers of those serving in Territorial units were renumbered to 6 figure digits which took effect from 1 March 1917.[32]  His new number was 242009.[33]

The 1/5th Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers was a battalion of the Territorial Force formed at Walker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in August 1914.  It was part of the 149th Brigade, 50th [Northumbrian] Division.  Units in the 149th Brigade were:[34]

  • 1/ 4 Bn., The Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 1/5th Bn., The Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 1/6th Bn., The Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 1/7th Bn., The Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 149th Machine Gun Company formed 6 February 1916, moved to 50th Bn., MGC 1 March 1918
  • 149th Trench Mortar Battery formed 18 June 1918

Many local territorial soldiers from south west Durham were also in the 50th [Northumbrian] Division.  The local battalion, 6/DLI formed part of the 151st Brigade together with 1/7th, 1/8th and 1/9th Battalions DLI, later to be joined by 1/5th Bn., the Loyal North Lancs. and 1/5th Border Regiment, 151 Machine Gun Company and 151 Trench Mortar Battery.  Three Field Ambulances formed the Divisional Medical units and the 2nd Northumbrian Field Ambulance [Darlington] [35] contained local men, several from Cockfield. 

The Division landed in France in April 1915 and fought on the Western Front until July 1918 when it was virtually destroyed by the German Spring Offensive.  After taking part in 3 great battles, it suffered heavy casualties and was exhausted.  The decision was taken to rebuild the Division and it was not until October 1918 was it considered that it could take the field again. 

It is safe to assume that Acting Sergeant J.W. Walton was posted to 5/NF prior to 1 March 1917 and thus, he was with the 50th Division when it saw action as follows:

  • 9 – 14 April 1917:  The First Battle of the Scarpe which involved the capture of Wancourt Ridge
  • 23 – 24 April 1917: The Second Battle of the Scarpe

Both these actions were phases of the Arras Offensive.  The battalion war diary has not been researched but later evidence suggests that 5/NF played only a limited part in this action since its casualties over the period were very light –  it lost no officers and only 3 other ranks. [36]

The next action was at the Ypres Salient, Belgium.

  • 26 October – 10 November 1917: The Second Battle of Passchendaele, a phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, known more simply as Passchendaele.

With regard to the number of casualties suffered at Passchendaele, it was a different matter to what had occurred at Arras. 

The 149th Brigade led an attack on the morning of the 26th October and all 3 battalions, 4th 5th and 7th NF suffered heavy casualties.  They were relieved at midnight by the 150th Brigade.  The Divisional History states that 5/NF lost 12 officers and 439 other ranks, missing, wounded or killed in action.[37] 

The Battalion War Diary records the action of the 26th October, as follows:

“SCHAAP BALIE 26/10/17 5.40am: Barrage commenced.  Companies go over well.  Enemy barrage on road U.12.6.2.9 to U12.8.9.1. within 3 minutes of zero hour.

A Coy V.7. a.5.8. heavily shelled.

7.10am: Report from wounded that all Coys [38] have taken their first objective.

7.40am: Report from wounded the B Coy, on the left, are on hill 23 & being heavily fired on by machine guns from direction of wood.

9am: Report that C Coy are held up by machine gun fire from huts V.1.8.70.65.

11.30am: One platoon of 6th NF move forward and reoccupy line ADEN HOUSE to TURENNE CROSSING with remains of A Coy.

2.15pm: Lieut. LEWIS and remains of C Coy reline to TURENNE CROSSING & get in touch with A Coy.

4.15pm: Remains of Battalion back on original line.

From wounded the following reports are gathered.

B Coy [left Coy] advanced well from assembly point taking first objective easily until they reached the road in V.1.e.5.8 which was found wired between the trees – when the first and second waves reached this and attempted to cut the wire to reach enemy trench situated about V.1.C. which was full of enemy, they were enfiladed by machine guns firing from V.1.6.9.0 & practically wiped out.  The other waves were unable to advance on account of intense M.G. fire.

C Coy & 4th NF on their right advanced as far as huts in V.1.8.but were unable to advance further on account of M.G. fire.

D Coy having taken first objective advanced under heavy fire.

No further news can be obtained of this Coy.

11pm: Bn. Relieved by 4th Bn, Yorkshire Regt.  Moves back to ROSE CROSS ROS Camp.

BOESINGHE 27/10/17 10.30am: Battn. Camp shelled by howitzers 1 Nissen hut hit causing many casualties –  Casualties 27/10/17 killed 7O.R. Wounded 15 O.R.

2pm: Bn. Moves to OUSEL FARM by train and march route.”

The following casualty tally is given:

“Casualties on 26th October were as under:

Killed: 2/Lieut. W.G. VERRILL

Wounded: Capt. E. BISSET, Lieut. F. HASWELL, 2/Lieuts. R. GARY, T.M. SCOTT, A.R. PARK, W. CARR, F.K. HILL

Missing: Lieut. P. SHAW, 2/Lieuts. W.C. MAY, W.W. WILKIN & Rev. P. LOOBY C.F. [R.C. Chaplain]

Other Ranks: Killed – 60: Wounded – 149: Missing – 230

Total Strength of Bn. on 1st October 41 Officers & 763 O.R.

                                      On 31st              30 Officers & 522 O.R.

Reinforcements received during month 1 Officer & 215 O.R.”

Later research confirms that between 26 October and 12 November, 5/NF lost no officers but 185 other ranks were killed in action or died of wounds.[39]   The difference in numbers for officers can be explained.  The ODGW data base uses the officers’ “home” regiment to count those killed, died of wounds or died of illness.  However, an officer may have been “attached” to a different battalion at the time of his death.  The Divisional History is likely to have relied upon the battalion war diaries and for the purpose of listing officer casualties, name and rank are used.  An “attached” officer was usually regarded as a battalion officer and would have been recorded as such.

The War Diary continues with an entry 30/11/17:

“The following decorations have been awarded to the Bn. for the action on 26/11/17

MILITARY CROSS – 2/Lieut. G.H. LEWIS

D.C.M. – 240337 Sgt. J.W. BROWN, 240066, L/C J. McKENZIE

MILITARY MEDAL – 241895 Sgt. D.E. WRIGHT, 242009 Pte J. WALTON, 240992 L/Cpl. L. BURFORD, 241870 Pte. G.D. WATSON, 242440 Pte. F. HALL”

Private J. Walton[40] was awarded the Military Medal for an act of bravery or devotion to duty under fire in battle on land on the recommendation of a Commander-in-Chief in the field.[41]  The award would have been published along with many others in the London Gazette but no details [citation] would have been provided.

13 December 1917: A local press report stated: [42]

“John W. Walton has been awarded the Military Medal for distinguished service in France.  Sergt. Walton enlisted at the outbreak of hostilities, prior to which he was a workman at Randolph Colliery and resided at the Pottery, Evenwood Gate.  He enlisted into the DLI but has since been transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers.  His wife and family now reside at the Oaks, Evenwood.”

The next major battle was in late March 1918, when the great German offensive hit the Allied forces on the Western Front.  The 50th [Northumbrian] Division was in the thick of it.

The German Offensive, Spring 1918: an overview

3 March 1918, Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jagers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions. [43]  A single division numbered about 19,000 men. [44]  Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.  

The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, Pershing General of the Armies of the United States asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.[45] The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.[46]

Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.[47]  The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.[48]

21 March 1918:  the German Offensive was launched.  There were 5 phases: [49]

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, against the British, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918)
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, against the British, the Battle of Lys sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, against the French sector along Chemin des Dames, the Third Battle of Aisne
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider, the Battle of the Matz
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive.  The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 303,450 men – 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000.[50]

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required. [51] 

To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world.[52]

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918. [53]

5th Bn., The Northumberland Fusiliers and the German Spring Offensive

While Acting Sergeant J.W. Walton served with the 50th Division, it was involved in a number of these great battles:

  • 21 – 23 March: The Battle of St. Quentin
  • 24 – 25 March: Actions of the Somme Crossing
  • 26 – 27 March: The Battle of Rosieres

These action are known as phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918.  The war diary has not been examined but later research records that between 21 and 31 March, 5/NF lost 1 officer and 44 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds.[54]  This account will concentrate on the next actions since they have a great bearing on Acting Sergeant J.W. Walton’s military service.

The Battles of the Lys 1918

These actions followed 2 weeks later, to the north around the River Lys which forms the border between Belgium and France:

  • 9 – 11 April: The Battle of Estaires
  • 12 – 15 April: The Battle of Hazebrouck

Known as phases of the Battles of the Lys, they followed closely on the heels of the devastating “Operation Michael” attack in March.  The “Operation Georgette” offensive was aimed at strangling the vital railways and roads that supplied the British at Ypres. Having assembled an overwhelming numerical advantage, the Germans attacked in thick fog on 9 April 1918. They faced tired British formations that had just been relieved from the earlier battle and which were receiving replacements, mainly in the form of 18 year-old conscripts. By the day’s end, the Germans had succeeded in gaining a crossing of the River Lys and were well on their way to the vital railway junctions at Hazebrouck. Several British divisions were deployed to stop the advance, only to be effectively destroyed in the attempt over the next few days. Gradually, fresher British, Australian and French reserves arrived and held their ground. With disappointing results, mounting casualties and a diminishing return for their efforts, the Germans abandoned the offensive and turned their attention further south. [55] 

The following summary is taken from the 5/NF War Diary with extracts from the Divisional History.  10 – 12 April were key days in the battle.  The importance was such that on the 11 April, Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander in Chief of the British Armies in France delivered a Special Order of the Day to all ranks of the British Army in France and Flanders.  It is known as Haig’s “Backs to the Wall” Order when he urged his men to “fight it out” to the end and stated that the war’s victor would be “the side which holds out the longest”.[56]  

2 April:  5/NF arrived by train at Rue.  Its strength on the train was 8 officers and 197 other ranks.  Over the next 2 days they marched via Vironcheux, Legiscourt, Busbnes, St. Pol- Lillers to Gonneham to billets.

8 April: Marched to Le Sart.  At night there was a heavy bombardment.

9 April: The bombardment continued into the next day.  The battalion was at an hours’ notice to move and at 10am they arrived at CHAPELLE DUVELLE near Merville, a town which was being shelled heavily.  At 1pm, 5/NF moved further forward to TROU BAYARD.  The shelling of Merville continued.  150th Brigade was in the line on the river Lys as far north as Sailly-sur-la-Lys holding PONT LEVIS and Sailly bridgehead.  By 4pm, 5/NF was in position and under orders “to counter attack immediately should the enemy cross the river”.  By 9.30pm, 5/NF was occupying strong point positions around TROU BAYARD.  By 11.45pm, it appeared that the enemy had crossed the river Lys at Bas St. Mur but had been driven back by the 40th Division.

5/NF War Diary records the following casualties for 9 April:

  • Killed – 10 O.R.
  • Wounded – 11 O.R.

10 April at 4am: C and D Companies moved forward to relieve 4/East Yorkshires.  Communications were unable to be maintained due to heavy machine gun fire from Estaires.

10.30am B Coy reported that the enemy were using trench mortars and causing heavy casualties.  The Germans crossed PONT LEVIS.  D Coy moved forward to counter attack.  C Coy maintained its position and inflicted many casualties on the enemy.

“Part of the men retired, hearing Capt. BRANFOOT and Lt GRAHAM and others still holding the enemy who were encircling them from vicinity of Fm [farm?] QUENELLE. Nothing further has been heard of these officers and it is thought they died fighting.”

B Coy’s right flank was in danger of an attack from the rear.  They retired under heavy machine gun fire suffering heavy casualties.

“Capt. GRINLING and all his officers not returning.  No further news of these officers has been heard.”

3pm: The enemy was reported to have crossed the river LYS at SAILLY-SUR-LA-LYS

4pm: A Coy under Capt. STAFFORD took up position with the remnants of the battalion at strong points at PT. DE POIVRE – TROU BAYARD joining up with 4/NF.   The remnants of 151 Brigade were still holding the line north of TROU BAYARD.

6pm: The enemy pressed forward under cover of machine gun fire from Farm QUENELLE.  “Our” Lewis guns and rifle fire caused heavy enemy casualties in front of TROU BAYARD.

8pm: The enemy still held the line PT. DE POIVRE-TROU BAYARD-G.14.C

5/NF War Diary records the following casualties for 10 April:

  • Killed – 19 O.R.
  • Wounded – 83 O.R.
  • Missing – Lieut. J.W. Lough & 218 O.R.

11 April 4am: The remains of the battalion [about 200 men] held the line NEUF – ESTAIRES ROAD holding a series of strong points with 4/NF on the left and 5/DLI on the right.

9am: They were driven back but inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.

11am: TROU BAYARD was taken by the enemy.  The line fell back.

4pm: The right flank was “in the air”, they understood that reinforcements should be on the right but “unable to gain touch”.  They were in touch with 29th Division on the left. The enemy seen advancing towards NEUF-BERGUIN.

9pm: The line still being held.

5/NF War Diary records the following casualties for 11 April:

  • Killed – 6 O.R.
  • Wounded – 34 O.R.
  • Missing – Capt. F.W. Grinling; Capt. G. Branfoot; Lieuts, R.G. Smith, P. Graham & 36 O.R.

A Supplementary Report to the war diary relates to the actions of a party of 65 men under Capt. I.M. Tweedy, consisting of drummers, cooks, men from leave and casuals who were sent to reinforce the line on the night of the 11th.  They were involved in the fighting, sustaining 25 casualties – killed 7 ORs; wounded 2/Lieut. J.H. Rigby and 8 ORs; missing 2/Lieut. F. Remmer and 8 ORs.

The Divisional History confirms that:

11 April: 149th Brigade held a line from the Estaires – Neuf Berquin road west of Trou Bayard, 5/NF held the right sector.  At 9.35am, 5/NF was heavily attacked and with the right flank exposed, it was ordered to withdraw.[57]  On the evening, there is evidence that the discipline of German troops faltered.  Instead of pressing their advantage, they wasted valuable time “plundering and looting” in the town of Merville.[58]

12 April: 149th Brigade marched to its new positions at the cross roads of Neuf Berquin to Vieux Berquin road.  By noon, the enemy had pushed the line back to west of La Sart to east of Pont Tournant but the line stood fast despite fighting all day until it was relieved by the 4th Guards Brigade.

Back to 5/NF War Diary:

12 April 2.30am: The Battalion withdrew owing to the enemy occupying NEUF-BERQUIN.  It continued to fall back and attempted to fill a 1000-yard gap.  At 8am, they meet the Guards Brigade.

10.30am:  The Guards Brigade and the remnants of the 4/NF counter attacked in an attempt to occupy previous positions but were driven back. 

Noon: About 50 men of the battalion held position F.25.C despite heavy shelling.

4pm: The line fell back owing to enemy gaining ground and reported to be close to MERRIS.

8pm: What remained of the battalion withdrew and concentrated at LA MOTTE.

5/NF War Diary records the following casualties for 12 April:

  • Killed – 4 O.R.
  • Wounded – Lt.Col. A. Irwin; Capt. A.R. Oram [RAMC], Lieuts. C.Y. Alder, A. Morris, 2/Lieut. J.H. Rigby & 25 O.R.
  • Missing – Lieut. F.G. Hutchinson; 2/Lieut F. Remmer & 22 O.R.

13 April:  The whole Division concentrated in the grounds of La Motte Chateau.  149th Brigade was then “lent” to the 5th Division “for digging purposes” and returned to the 50th on the 18th April.[59] 

5/NF War Diary records the following casualties for 13 April:

  • Wounded – 3 O.R.
  • Missing – 3 O.R.

And so the remnants of 5/NF were taken out of the front line to billets at La Motte until 18 April when they marched to Steenbeque, Boeseghem, Aire, Mametz to Rebecq to billets in the village.  Back to Mametz then “embus for Pernes” and proceed to Fere-en-Tardenois via St. Pol – Pontoise – Pantin and arrived at Coulonges to camp by 18 April. 

5/NF War Diary records that between 9 and 13 April, 39 ORs were killed; 5 Officers and 156 ORs were wounded; 7 Officers and 279 ORs were missing.  Missing could mean dead or captured as a prisoner of war.  Later research records that between 9 and 17 April, 5/NF lost 1 officer and 112 other ranks, either killed in action or died of wounds.[60] Thus, it seems that about half a dozen Officers and approximately 200 Other Ranks were taken prisoner.  The Divisional History reads:

“It is not possible to obtain from the records the exact number of casualties suffered by the 50th Division between the 9th and the 13th of April but on the night of the 12th – 13th, after the 5th Division had relieved the remnants, the latter numbered 55 officers and 1,100 other ranks.  These figures are eloquent of the superb courage and tenacity of the Division.” [61] 

The German offensive came close to breaking through but it did not succeed.  Evidently, the British troops responded to Haig’s rallying call and fought courageously with even the cooks and drummer boys taking to arms.  Ultimately, this engagement was seen to be a strategic defeat.  The British suffered heavy casualties but so did the German forces, so much so that the offensive was called off.  It is presumed that Acting Sergeant J.W. Walton was wounded during the course of the Battle of Hazebrouck.  The following 2 reports confirm that he was wounded and this effectively ended his war.   

  • 20 May 1918: A report confirmed that 242009 Acting Sergeant J. Walton, Northumberland Fusiliers was, “Entitled to wear a wound stripe as authorised under Army Order 204 of the 6th July 1916. [62]
  • In May 1918, Rev. Collis published in the Evenwood Parish Magazine, a list of wounded men which included, “Sergt. John Walton M.M. 3rd time.” [63] 

If the Somme wound was his first and the Lys wound was his third, he probably received his second wound at Passchendaele but to date, details of this have not been found.  In September 1918, Rev. Collis wrote:

“Among our congregations in Church have been Sergt. J. Walton MM and J. Smith.  As a local recognition of their distinction in obtaining the Military Medal, Sergt. Walton and Lance Corporal F. Neasham were each presented with a gold watch by the Evenwood and Ramshaw War Fund.” [64]  

It seems that Sergeant J.W. Walton had fought his last battle and “in doing his bit for King and country” had suffered disabling wounds, as the following 3 reports confirm:

  • 2 November 1918: Commencement of his pension as a result of a gun-shot wound to the right forearm.[65]
  • 1 November 1918: Discharged.[66]
  • 2 April 1919: Sergeant J.W. Walton was formally discharged under para.392 XVI A of the King’s Regulations [wounds or sickness].[67]

Medals, Badges and Awards

The 1914-15 Star: Private J.W. Walton served with 13/DLI [service no.24749] when he entered France, 24 August 1915. [68]

The Victory and British War Medals: He’d previously served with 13/DLI, 10/DLI and as a Sergeant in 5/Northumberland Fusiliers [service number 5/6778 then 242009 when renumbered]. [69]

The War Badge: Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge, number B178808.[70]

A Gold watch presented by the Evenwood & Ramshaw War Fund.[71]

Post War

John William Walton returned to the Oaks, Evenwood and as indicated above, he and Bella had 3 more children.  He returned to Randolph Colliery to work as a coal miner.

c.1938 EVENWOOD BAND

Back:

T. Green; J. Robson; C. Charlton; ? Robson; George C. Walton; Unknown; J. Baister with cap; Frank Heaviside;   

J. Thorburn; G. Allison; F. Bracher wearing glasses; G. Blackett above; John W. Walton.

Middle:

? Thomas; Unknown; G.W. Hodgson; F. Crooks; A. Walling.

Front:

Unknown; Matthew Walton Unknown; S. Fryer.

Photographed above are John William Walton and his sons George and Matthew, and Francis Henry Bracher his son-in-law who married his daughter Elsie and lived at Staindrop. 

1939 – 1945: 3 of his sons joined up, John and George into the Army, the DLI and Matthew into the RAF.

1963:  John W. Walton died aged 77.[72]

REFERENCES


[1] Ancestry family tree and England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.268 Teesdale 1886 Q2

[2] 1881 & 1891 census

[3] 1891 census

[4] England & Wales Death Index 1837 – 1915 Vol.10a p.149 Teesdale 1889 Q3

[5] 1901 census

[6] England & Wales Death Index 1837 – 1915 Vol.10a p.141 Auckland 1905 Q4

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837 – 1915 Vol.10a p.337 Auckland 1906 Q4

[8] 1911 census

[9] Evenwood Parish Magazine February 1915

[10] By the end of the year, William Gray himself enlisted.  He died of wounds 3 July 1918.

[11] Evenwood Parish Magazine April 1915

[12] Pension Card Index Form No.S.B.36 Note: 52 Oaks 1918 Absent Voters List

[13] Family details

[14] Family details – funeral card

[15] Family details

[16] 2 books essential for anyone researching 13/DLI. are – “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” Capt. W. Miles 1920 & “With Bayonets Fixed: The 12th & 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War” John Sheen 2013

[17] Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge dated 16 April 1919

[18] Medal Roll Card Index

[19] https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/durham-light-infantry/ and http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/23rd-division/

[20] Roll of Individuals entitled to the Decoration dated 11 December 1919 & Medal Roll Card Index

[21] Miles p.33

[22] Commonwealth War Graves Commission Note:  John Henry “Harry” Raine, had he survived, would have been the grandfather of John Caine, a good friend of mine and “supporter” of all things remembrance.

[23] Various sources including “First World War” J. Keegan; “The Somme” P. Hart, CWGC http://www.1914-1918.net

[24] “The Somme – The Day by Day Account” Chris McCarthy 1993 p.43

[25] Sheen p.144

[26] Sheen – Nominal Roll of Other Ranks who landed in France 25 August 1915 with the 13th [Service] Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry

[27] Sheen – notes added to the Nominal Roll

[28] Officers Died in the Great Wat [ODGW] and Soldiers Died in the Great War [SDGW]

[29] Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 28 April 1920 & Medal Roll Card Index.  Note: some references record his rank as Private even though it seems that he’d been promoted.

[30] Evenwood Parish Magazine September 1916

[31] Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 28 April 1920 & Medal Roll Card Index

[32]http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/renumbering-of-the-territorial-force-in-1917/renumbering-the-tf-infantry-in-1917/

[33] Medal Roll card index

[34]https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/northumberland-fusiliers/ and http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/50th-northumbrian-division/

[35] “The Fiftieth Division 1914-1919” E. Wyrall 1939 p.3

[36] ODGW & SDGW

[37] Wyrall 1939 p.247

[38] Coys – shorthand for Companies.  About 220 men, made up of 4 platoons, under the command of a Major or a Captain.  Usually A, B, C & D Companies plus HQ staff.

[39] ODGW & SDGW

[40] The Battalion war diary records J.W. Walton as a Private.  Other sources give him the rank of Acting Sergeant or Sergeant.

[41] https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/medals/military-medal Note: 115,000 Military Medals were awarded during the Great War along with over 5,000 first bars, 180 second bars and  1 third bar.  It was instituted 25 March 1916 and backdated to 1914.

[42] The source of the newspaper article has not been identified, probably the Northern Echo or the South Durham and Auckland Chronicle

[43] “The Somme” Hart p.421

[44] CWGC

[45] http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[46] Hart p.437

[47] http://www.1914-1918.net/batt22.htm

[48] Hart p.437

[49] Hart p.426 & timeline

[50] Hart p.435

[51] Hart p.439

[52] Hart p.438

[53] timeline

[54] ODGW & SDGW

[55] “The Battle of the Lys 1918: Objective Hazebrouck” Chris Baker 2018 http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/buy-my-latest-books-on-the-battle-of-the-lys/

[56] https://www.firstworldwar.com/source/backstothewall.htm

[57] Wyrall p.329

[58] Wyrall p.332

[59] Wyrall p.334

[60] ODGW & SDGW

[61] Wyrall p.334 Note: A Division numbers 18,000 men, comprised of 3 brigades plus HQ staff, under the command of a Major General.

[62] Forces War Records archive reference: NLS 1918_WList 43

[63] Evenwood Parish Magazine May 1918

[64] Evenwood Parish Magazine September 1918

[65] Pension Card Index Form No.S.B.36

[66] Pension Card Index Form No.S.B.36

[67] Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge dated 16 April 1919

[68] Roll of Individuals entitled to the Decoration dated 11 December 1919 & Medal Roll Card Index

[69] Roll of Individuals entitled to the Victory and British War medals dated 28 April 1920 & Medal Roll Card Index

[70] Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge dated 16 April 1919

[71] Evenwood Parish Magazine September 1918

[72] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.1a p.719 Durham Western 1963 Q4